In this series, we answer your travel questions and provide tips and tricks to help you plan a hassle-free trip. This week, Brooklyn-based Lonely Planet’s in-house cycling obsessive Sebastian Modak explains why a bike is actually a great way to experience New York City.
Question: I’m visiting New York next month with my partner and we want to rent bikes for a day and see some of the city that way. Do you think it’s doable and any recommendations on where we should go?
Sebastien Modak: Most people who tell you you shouldn’t ride a bike in New York have never ridden in New York. Of course it’s not something Cycling utopia without a helmetAs Copenhagen Where amsterdam. But, with a little extra caution and pre-trip planning, it can be fun to explore all five boroughs (yes, even Staten Island) on two wheels.
Your first step is going to be to find a bike to ride. For fast and short one-ways, your best bet is Citi Bike, the city’s extensive self-service bicycle system. Download the app and you can rent a Citi bike for $3.99 for a 30-minute ride or pay for a day pass ($15) for unlimited 30-minute rides over a 24-hour period.
There are tons of better bike rental options if you’re looking to explore a bit further or get some exercise. For solid hybrids or road bikes, for example, check out Walk in Brooklyn Where Innovation Bike Shopboth of which offer day rentals.
Where to go
The classic ride: For an introduction to the city, head to Manhattan’s West End, where the protected Hudson River Greenway stretches from Battery Park in the south to Inwood in the north—about 14 miles in all. Make a day of it with meal stops in the West Village, Harlem, and Washington Heights. Riverside Park and the brand new Little Island are also great places to stop and stretch along the way. Go back or take your bike on the metro or ferryboth of which allow bicycles.
The parks: Central Park in Manhattan and Prospect Park in Brooklyn are great for riding (people-watching is a bonus). Just make sure to follow the same direction around the loop as other cyclists and leave plenty of room for Lycra-clad roadies to pass. Both parks are close to a ton of amenities in the form of restaurants, bars, and museums, so you’ll have a lot to do after doing a few rounds.
Off beaten cycle paths: Of course, New York is much more than its parks, well known to tourists. In Brooklyn, for example, why not take the coastal road, joining the newly paved Shore Road Parkway at Bay Ridge and following it all the way along the waterway Coney Island and Brighton Beach (with a mandatory stop for Uzbek or Ukrainian food); in front of the abandoned Floyd Bennet airfield; and ending on the beach in the Rockaways.
Gourmet trails: If food is what you are looking for then Queens is the place to be. A word of warning: Biking through food-focused neighborhoods like Jackson Heights and Flushing may be less straightforward than some of these other options due to inconsistent bike lanes. Bike-friendly routing apps like RideWithGPS, Komoot and Google Maps are going to be your best friends here.
get out of town
Finally, if you have a bike for a few days (or brought your own), New York is a great base for long weekends in the Hudson Valley and beyond. Head to Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, where you’ll find the Old Putnam Trail. Follow this north which leads to other trails, all part of the huge Empire State Trail stretching from New York to the Canadian border.
Then go home and tell your naysayer friends that you not only rode a bike in New York, but rode through it, out, and back — all while not even spending a dime on a high-priced Uber. .